TORONTO - Masai Ujiri remembers being a boy attending a basketball camp in his native northern Nigeria, and the excitement of being given an Hakeem Olajuwon T-shirt.It was a small gesture with a big impact.My eyes were so wide, to get that T-shirt was unbelievable, Ujiri said.Ujiri speaks passionately about the power of sports to change lives. Hes seen it first-hand through his Giants of Africa camp and Basketball Without Borders, and is himself living proof as the president and general manager of the Toronto Raptors.Its a determination he shared with the late Nelson Mandela, who Ujiri and the Raptors will celebrate Friday in an all-star benefit.How many people in those kinds of positions ever have any kind of relations with sport in some ways other than being like a guest of honour or something? Ujiri said in a phone interview Thursday. But Nelson Mandela, with what he did with rugby, the way he supported sports, I thought it was so impactful because he said it best: sports has the power to impact people and society, and youth. And so I think its a great message for us, its not only a great game, but its a great day to spread that message around the world that we are blessed to have sports and we are blessed to participate in something fun like this.When South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Mandela famously donned the Springbok sweater, a gesture he hoped would help unite his racially-fragmented country.Friday marks the one-year anniversary since Mandelas death at the age of 95.Ujiri has assembled an all-star lineup for the event, including NBA legends Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Dikembe Mutombo, along with UN Goodwill Ambassador and 1999 Miss Universe winner Mpule Kwelagobe. Other guests include Raptors alumnus Tracy McGrady, Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender Jonathan Bernier and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, former Toronto Argonauts star Michael (Pinball) Clemons, deputy commissioner of the NBA Mark Tatum and Amadou Fall, vice-president of NBA Africa. Funds raised will go to both the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Ujiris Giants of Africa.Ujiri founded Giants of Africa in 2003, both as a means to enrich the lives of children in Africa, and to shine a spotlight on the abundance of untapped talent there.He signed a deal with Nike to outfit the players. He sees himself in the kids he helps.You see these kids, their faces when you give them shoes and you give them gear, socks and shorts and jerseys and T-shirts, its remarkable how that affects them in some kind of way, and how they want to play the sport more, and even dedicate themselves more, Ujiri said. But its come to a point where I look at myself, and say: We have to look at it even beyond playing. I say How do we really use basketball as a tool? Because now sports has become so general, its important to expose Africa and kids to other aspects of sport.What about sports medicine, and sports journalism, and sports agencies, coaching, and all the different things that you can do in sports, he said. It doesnt have to be making the NBA or it doesnt have to be playing. You can figure out how you can use basketball as a tool and guidance to maybe do something very very reasonable and very very good for your life, and to grow.It doesnt necessarily have to be playing basketball. Im the prime example of that.The six-foot-four Ujiri played basketball in the U.S. at Bismarck State College, and then spent six years playing professionally in Europe. He virtually chiselled out a post-playing career for himself, working as an unpaid scout for the Orlando Magic. He paid his own way on trips at times, and bunked with other scouts and players.He went on to be an international scout for Denver and Toronto, then won NBA executive of the year in 2013 with Denver, where he was the first African-born GM of a major North American sports team. He returned to Toronto to be the teams president and GM in 2013.Ujiri said his summer trips to Africa are the times he looks forward to most. Going spending it in the grinds of not only travelling in Africa and seeing different cultures and different people, but seeing different communities and people, and what makes them tick and what makes them live, and how they live happy, and some of the struggles that they have. It puts life in perspective, Ujiri said. Its a huge part of who I am and what I want to do.Our concentration is sports and how we can build sports, and going into communities to help, whether its teaching basketball, whether its us figuring out charities or foundations that we can help, or us figuring out little courts that we can build, or give them a net, give a basketball team basketballs . . . those are the things we want to continue to build and grow over there. Thats the impact it has on me when I go back in the summer, he said.A big believer in never forgetting where youve come from, Ujiri said his experiences in Africa remain with him in his daily work back in Toronto with the Raptors.Honestly, it puts things in perspective, he said. We take things for granted a lot of times, and I would never forget to be humbled by the position that I am in, and the blessings that I have to be in this position, with such good people around me that give me that opportunity to go help other Africans, and other youth.I have to be a voice, and I have to make an impact on other people. If not, what Im doing here means really nothing.Fridays celebration will begin with a panel discussion. It will continue into Fridays Raptors game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, with video tributes. The Raptors will wear special edition shooting shirts and management will don Giant of Africa lapel pins. The Giant of Africa T-shirts will be for sale, featuring Mandelas five pillars; being a leader, fighting for freedom, creating a better future, committing to the community and using sport to inspire change. Proceeds from sales go to Giants of Africa. Garret Sparks Jersey
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. Colton Sissons also scored for Milwaukee (19-12-8), which went ahead with a two-goal third period. Wade MacLeod and Greg McKegg replied for Toronto (23-12-4). BESANCON, France -- With defending champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador out of the race, the path is wide open for Vincenzo Nibali to become the first Italian to win the Tour de France since the late Marco Pantani in 1998. The French have waited even longer for a champion -- the last was Bernard Hinault way back in 1985 -- but with three riders in the top six places, hopes are growing of at least a first podium place since climber Richard Virenque finished second in 1997. After Tuesdays rest day, the race resumes with Stage 11 on Wednesday, followed by arduous mountain stages on Friday and Saturday which will reveal the genuine contenders. These are where Nibalis climbing skills could set him apart, and give him a chance to fully stamp his authority on the race. There are five days of hard climbing ahead, starting with Fridays 197.5-kilometre (122.4-mile) trek from Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse, which ends with a huge ascent of 18 kilometres (11.2 miles). As for Nibalis rivals, Contador broke his shin in a violent fall in Mondays 10th stage and Froome pulled out on stage 5 with a broken wrist. "Im not happy about what happened to Alberto and Chris," the 29-year-old Nibali said. "The climbs would have been better and more spectacular for everyone." Nibali, who won the Spanish Vuelta in 2010 and the Giro dItalia in 2013, is 2 minutes, 23 seconds ahead of Australian Richie Porte and 2:47 clear of Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who won the Vuelta five years ago. Three Frenchmen are within four minutes of Nibali -- Romain Bardet, Tony Gallopin and Thibaut Pinot. None has come close to a podium place on a Grand Tour, although the 23-year-old Bardet and the 24-year-old Pinot have strong climbing skills. "Weve got to stay calm and study the situation," Nibali said. "The danger can come from anywhere." Porte rode as a key support rider for Froome last year on the Sky team, but now has free reign to attack.dddddddddddd "Porte goes well in the climbs, he goes well in time trials, you have to keep a good distance on him," Nibali said. "You have to watch Valverde, he can attack at any time." The 34-year-old Valverde was handed a two-year suspension in 2010 for his involvement in the Operation Puerto doping plot, which involved dozens of riders over secretly stored blood bags. Like Nibali, Pantani was a courageous cyclist who loved to attack in the tough climbs. Pantani was found dead in a hotel room on Valentines Day in 2004 and a coroner ruled he died from cocaine poisoning. Nibali has one of Pantinis yellow jerseys at home, a gift from Pantinis mother to mark the 10th anniversary of his death. "It would be a great honour to follow on from him," said Nibali. Fridays stage will also be special for Nibali because it marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of two-time Tour champion Gino Bartali, who died in 2000 at the age of 85. "As an Italian, its a huge privilege to be asked about Bartali. I grew up watching documentaries on the big riders, the big wins of (Felice) Gimondi, Bartali and (Fausto) Coppi," Nibali said. "Theyre all in the encyclopedia of cycling. There are others like Hinault, too. Theyve written the history of cycling." The last French heyday came in the 1980s when Hinault, a five-time champion, competed against Laurent Fignon, who won in 83 and 84. Wednesdays stage is a 187.5-kilometre (116.3-mile) route in eastern France from Besancon to Oyonnax and features four small climbs. Veteran Fabian Cancellara wont be among the starters. The 33-year-old Swiss cyclist has pulled out to focus on the Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain, from Sept. 21-28. Cancellara withdrew prior to the start of the 11th Tour stage in 2012. Cheap Canadiens Jerseys Cheap Predators Jerseys Cheap Devils Jerseys Cheap Islanders Jerseys Cheap Rangers Jerseys Cheap Senators Jerseys Cheap Flyers Jerseys Cheap Penguins Jerseys Cheap Sharks Jerseys Cheap Blues Jerseys Cheap Lightning Jerseys Cheap Maple Leafs Jerseys Cheap Canucks Jerseys Cheap Golden Knights Jerseys Cheap Capitals Jerseys Cheap Winnipeg Jets Jerseys
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